We all live in glass houses

With the proliferation of the internet, it seems that we are increasing the number of people who realize they live in glass houses. For example, I recently listened to a podcast about a woman who has come to the forefront of the hardcore punk music scene for her feminist and #metoo efforts. She sings about the experiences of women in the hardcore punk scene. But then she was outed as having, back in high school (years before), once laughed at a picture someone else shared online of a naked woman who was a fellow student. And her role as advocate came crashing down. The culture of accountability she had worked to develop held her accountable.

I have seen this play out in a dozen different ways. People destroyed by the thing they created is an old motif. But I have two thoughts that keep coming to mind regarding this. They are both philosophical and as yet I offer no practical answers.

First off, don’t we all have skeletons in the closet? I am sure few of us can claim to have always been nice to everyone. And, I am sure a few of us (maybe even most of us) have things we would go back and do differently if we had the chance. I think of the things I did when I was young and first got into the military. Now I am old and charged with handling young troops who make those same mistakes. Does that make me unqualified or more qualified to handle them?

Let me say, that I am not talking about people who rant against drugs and then secretly go home and do them. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the young man who once dropped a dead mouse through the sunroof of another unit’s NCO that he didn’t like now being tasked with passing judgment on other young people’s behavior. I’m talking about a guy who once was president of a fraternity that got in trouble now being in charge of enforcing university policies on fraternities. I’m talking about people protesting better treatment of immigrants who are or were probably biased against people of color at some point in their life. I’m talking about a woman leading a feminist movement who once did something mean to another woman.

It is as if our collective culture believes “only he [or she] who is free of all sin may judge” (or advocate).

Second, aren’t we supposed to learn over time? I can say with a lot of reflection that I am not the same person I was 20 years ago in at least a dozen developmental and intellectual ways. In fact, most 25 year olds aren’t the same person they were 10 years before. When someone has made mistakes in their past, but learned from them and shows remorse for them, when do we let that go? In this case, let’s jump to the other end of the spectrum and look at our criminal justice system and culture. If someone robs a bank, we put them in jail and expect them to learn their lesson by the time we let them go. But they are often labeled a criminal the rest of their life. Luckily for them, there are a lot of ways to hide this most of the time. Sex crimes, due to online databases are a lot harder to hide, and result in a permanent label.

My initial conclusion is that we don’t really believe in learning or forgiveness. We don’t really believe that anyone (other than ourselves) is any different of a person as they grow older. We seem to think that what you did as a teenager is still who you are. What you did in your early 20s (especially if it was in the internet age) is always subject to discovery and being used against you. Most people don’t really believe that people change.

I believe they can.

Do you?


An observation on observation of Mother’s Day vs Father’s Day

Having been part of a household observing the two holidays for 14 years or so, not to mention my own experiences as a kid with them, I have some observations. This is also informed by my experiences with my friends, my church community, and American culture in general. There are lots of variations but some themes emerge.

In general, on Mother’s Day, we do activities to “give mom a break” from the stereotypical jobs that mom does. We take her to dinner or someone else makes dinner. Someone besides mom does house cleaning and the dishes. We may even ask her if there is “something fun” she wants to do. And our language reflects recognition of the work that she does for the kids and family that doesn’t always get recognized. We honor her by excusing her from her chores.

In general, on father’s day, we ask dad what sort of family activities he would like to do. No one offers to do the stereotypically dad jobs (mowing the yard, car maintenance, clean the garage, etc.) We might ask him what he wants for dinner but rarely do we go out to dinner. (Even restaurants have caught on to this.) Our language reflects that this day is a chance for dad to “actually be a dad” and not have to do all those “dad jobs” but instead he can “play with the kids.” We honor him by giving him family time.

Mom’s chores and work are integral to the family.

Dad’s chores and work are external to the family.

Mom’s role is essential and has to be done every day even if she doesn’t do it.

Dad’s work can all be put off for a day.

Mom gets a break from “the family” (by which we really just mean her work) for her day.

Dad gets to play and have fun with the family on his day, since he doesn’t usually get to.

On Mother’s Day, we recognize “all the mom’s in our life” including those moms “that had to also be dad’s.”

On father’s day, we recognize that not all father’s are positive memories in our lives and the day may be troubling for some.

Most of these things are stereotypes and/or vestiges of heteronormative post-WWII culture. Where mom “is” the family and dad is the support of the family.

This is becoming increasingly challenging for families that don’t fit this. Some of my friends don’t fit this and we have discussed this at times. Maybe dad is a stay at home dad and packs the lunches and drives kids to soccer practice while mom works 60 hour weeks. Or maybe there are two moms, two dads, or two gender-non-conforming parents trying to navigate these gendered norms. Or maybe dad is a single-dad playing both roles. Maybe mom is abusive.

Besides their two very different origins, I think it is important to recognize the embedded cultural assumptions of how these two holidays are practiced. Practices based on two relatively-fixed (or at least slow to change) parental archetypes of the post-war mid-20th century. However, maybe dad wants flowers and maybe mom wants a necktie. Or maybe both parents just want some time to play with their kids. And maybe they hope that at least once a year their kids will recognize their contributions in some way.

Ask your parent figures, at least once a year, on whatever day you feel comfortable with, what you can do to recognize the contributions they have made in your life both seen and unseen. They will appreciate it. Especially if you recognize it in whatever way they want it recognized. And mom, dad, don’t be afraid to share the recognition you want.

(I find it odd that my iPad autocorrects Mother’s Day to be capitalized but not father’s day.)

Words I can agree with

Admittedly, John McCain is one of the Republicans I find myself agreeing with from time to time.

We are secluding ourselves in ideological ghettos. We have our own news sources. We exchange ideas mostly or exclusively with people who agree with us, and troll those who don’t. Increasingly, we have our own facts to reinforce our convictions and any empirical evidence that disputes them is branded as ‘fake.’ That’s a social trend that is going to be very hard to turn around.


Source: John McCain Makes An Appeal For Civility And Humility https://www.npr.org/2018/05/01/607193169/john-mccain-makes-an-appeal-for-civility-and-humility


Good Guys with Guns….and Mike Pence

It turns out that Vice President Mike Pence a “life long supporter of the Second Amendment” and the Secret Service aren’t buying the “good guys with guns” as a safety feature. When Mike Pence appears at the NRA convention, the NRA will have banned guns, knives, gun accessories, other weapons, and even selfie sticks, from the convention session.

There are a few ways to look at this.

  1. Mike Pence says he supports the 2nd Amendment to get votes but doesn’t really personally want anyone but his own security to have guns.
  2. Mike Pence thinks that the NRA has a number of fanatics in their midst that can’t be trusted.
  3. Mike Pence is a puppet of the Secret Service and the “Deep State.”
  4. Even the NRA is willing to accept gun-free zones in order to worship at the alter of Republican Gods.
  5. Since the NRA isn’t pushing back or claiming they don’t want Pence to come if this is the case, the NRA knows that they have some crazy ass mother-fuckers in their midst who can’t be trusted with guns.

The best part about this is the NRA claiming this has nothing to do with them and nothing to do with the Second Amendment. They claim it is all “standard Secret Service protocol.” Which is true. But this “nothing to see here. move along.” attitude is an attempt to bypass the very core of the argument. It turns out the even “the good guys with guns” can’t be trusted.

Here’s a thought……maybe if the NRA and the gun owner community would take some responsibility for regulating themselves, the government wouldn’t have to ban their guns so they can worship at the alter of their gods.

Heaven on Their Minds

I don’t pretend to understand the evangelical movement. They criticize politicians and celebrities left and right but then look the other way when someone like Trump comes along. The guy has had two affairs that ended two marriages and seems to have had multiple affairs in marriage number three. He owns casinos and strip clubs. He jokes about assaulting women. He has been in porn movies and “adult” magazines. Yet they tout him as a “family values” candidate and their best hope for bringing Christian values back to America?

I’m reminded of a line from the song “Heaven on Their Minds” from Jesus Christ Superstar.

All your followers are blind

Too much Heaven on their minds.

They seem to focus on theoretical promises and not on his behavior. They seem willfully ignorant of his actual actions. They don’t pay attention to the importance of how he treats people in his life……wait. Nevermind. This is the same way they view Jesus. I get it now.

I mean the guy joked that his wife might be the next person to leave the White House. Just last month, at on official dinner with his wife, Trump says during his speech “Now the question everyone keeps asking is, ‘Who’s going to be the next to leave? Steve Miller or Melania?’ That is terrible, honey, but you love me, right?” I mean seriously, he’d replace her just as fast as anyone else and I’m not entirely sure he would be particularly heartbroken about it. I doubt “family values” evangelicals would care much either. Trump would turn on Melania like he has his other ex-wives and blame her. The evangelicals would pray for her and Trumpeters would post memes of her.

Evangelicals are, like many Americans, have fallen for the prosperity gospel. They seem to think that financial success (or at least someone who claims success) must be “living right” and under “God’s grace.” They are quick forgive transgressions by even the worst of the megachurch leaders in their billion dollar mansions.

The Tumpeters (an overlapping group with the Evangelicals in most cases) worship on the alter of brand recognition and celebrity. They can’t name a success business venture of Trumps (partially because there are so few). Just like other reality stars, they don’t know why he is famous, just that he is. They voted for a reality show President and now seem excited over the reality show the White House has become. America no longer looks like a semi-stable world power. We look like a reality show. It’s only a matter of time until other countries also start forgetting what we are famous for in the first place.






A new kind of underground

I have to wonder if we are facing a new sort of underground. One where the intellectuals are the minority. Where the emotional narrow-minded ones are the ones that control our society while the rest of us are forced to sit like a Kermit the Frog meme sipping our tea and watching.

I have faith though that this won’t happen. Intellectuals, moderates, and realists might get run out of the government but thanks to the internet (the 21st Century version of a free press) they still have a voice. You don’t need to look any further than the Alt National Park Service to see this. (It’s a meme from their page in the headline of this story.)

I have no doubt that if the internet were to be run by the emotional narrow-minds then the resistance would find new ways. Dark webs, black emails, file drops, and when all else fails, handed off flash drives full of data.

If history has shown us anything, it is that intelligent realists find a means to survive, thrive, and resist. They may move a bit and shift constantly, but they push society even when they have to do so with hidden forces.

My love and minor discontent with the new Black Panther film

*****Warning: Spoilers****** (both cinematic and philosophical, lol).

Let me start off with this initial statement: I thoroughly enjoyed the film. I will see it again (and again, and again). It is right up there with Wonder Woman, Captain America, Deadpool, etc. in my list of over-the-top comic book movies. I also love the fact that there was a superhero movie featuring African American actors, an African American director, and so much African music. I think it is awesome that African American kids will see a superhero that looks like them and white kids will see a superhero of color.

What I have struggled with is white liberal hype around the movie.  First and foremost, the white liberals praising that “finally” Hollywood made a move with a black cast and black director and black music. Ok, let’s be clear here. That is just not factually true. There have been lots of “black movies” over the years. Now, they were aimed at a black audience almost exclusively and were seen almost exclusively by black audiences. So they aren’t considered “blockbusters” because the majority white audience never saw them. So I’m not surprised that a group of privileged white liberals don’t know that they exist.

Black Panther is the first black superhero movie (from a major comic book entity and Walt Disney) and will therefore hopefully appeal to a white audience as well. But that is the limit of its firsts. The only people claiming this as a “first” are either too young to know who Foxy Brown and Shaft are or they don’t understand the history of blaxsplotation films. (And so many never heard of Black Panther before this for the same reason they never heard of Foxy Brown.) For those unfamiliar with this term, this is when a white Hollywood production company hires a black director, black actors, and uses black music to make a film for black audiences. It started in the 1970s and has continued in many forms through today. The money from these films largely comes back to the white production companies. They also have ignored the entire genre of films it has spawned that includes comedies (Don’t Be a Menace to South Central and the Madea series.) Things white liberals are generally uncomfortable watching because it includes a lot of cultural humor they don’t get. But a superhero film doesn’t have as much of that. (Although there are a few hilarious quips in it – like the “colonizer” line.)

So is Black Panther a blaxsplotation film? I see an argument that it is an evolution of the genre. In some ways, it does fit and in some it doesn’t. It certainly appeals to black audiences to try and make money for a white production company. It uses black actors and black music to do so. It tells a story of both African American life and black culture. If it is a blaxsplotatoin film, it is the biggest budget one of all time (I am guessing) and it is the first superhero one and the first Walt Disney one.

So is Black Panther a superhero film? Yes, I think it is firmly grounded in that genre. As such, my complaint is in how they changed the sub-text of the original comic book series to be more palatable to a wider audience and did some damage with that. The original Black Panther stood up for African Americans. He was a crime fighter. He protected black communities when police wouldn’t do it.

I think my other struggle was with Killmonger. (This part might not make sense if you haven’t seen the movie.) Killmonger works for himself and wants to overthrow governments and rule the world. If memory serves me right, in the comic book series, the bad guys were always corporations trying to steal African treasures and resources. And the bad guys always worked for these corporations in some way. Anti-global-capitalism is the theme that comes to mind. Instead, they create a new story line that is closer to a blaxsplotation film. Killmonger plays out a deep philosophical conflict concerning what kind of activism is appropriate in the African American community. (I do love a philosophical problem. Hence, I like him more than we are probably supposed to.) It asks the question, should the oppressed rise up with violence and threats of violence or should they aspire to non-violence means and forgiveness of their oppressors.

So is Black Panther a socialjustice film? No. Not beyond the “look at all the money Hollywood put into a film made by African Americans” sort of way. I think the superhero genre bent to meet a blaxsplotation genre in a couple ways. First, Killmonger’s story of his father being killed for his involvement in crime results in Killmonger turning to killing and crime despite clear intellectual ability. This sub-plot reinforces white conservative story lines about the problems of inner-city violence. Second, much of the story is about black-on-black violence that is core to blaxsplotation films. Lastly, you still have a tribe of black “ape-like” people who come to the rescue while grunting like apes. Yes, in the end they build a community center and yes, they tell the UN they are there for everyone that doesn’t undo the previous hour.

If this is not a blaxsplotation film, designed purely for an African American audience you have to consider how these plots points will be received in conservative rural America. The same people who pass around memes of the Obamas comparing them to apes now think it is acceptable. The same people who blame problems in the African American community on “black-on-black” crime will see that here too.

If this film was designed as a superhero film for everyone, I think these plot points could have been smoothed out and addressed in better ways. They don’t ruin the film but they don’t help it as a tool for social justice that my liberal friends seem to think it is.

I realize these aren’t popular things to bring up. If you are mad at me by reading this far, I apologize. Remember – I like the film. Please don’t hate me. But I was told be a well-meaning liberal family member that if I was going to bring these points up, I probably shouldn’t engage in discussions about the film with people. In other words, liberals don’t care how racists might see the film. Especially with our liberal friends, most of whom are falling all over themselves talking about what a great movie it is and what a break-through it is for Hollywood. I think it is a break-through but it can have some problems too and that’s okay. It’s a paradox I am comfortable with, even if they aren’t.

I still think it is a great movie. I still want to see it again. But for now, I’m keeping my plot point criticisms to myself (and the three people who read this blog.) But I look forward to seeing what film critics say of it over time. I also hope this opens the door for more blockbuster films with people of color in lead and supporting roles and featuring their music and culture.